The girls were restless. As we stood for prayer I breathed a silent one of my own. “Oh, God, how do we reach their hearts? Somehow, some way, use us. Please!” The amens were said, and they settled back. The fortunate ones grabbed the few chairs in the cement-block room. Four sat on the desk, legs swinging in midair. Others sat cross-legged on the hard floor. After all, there are no luxuries in jail.
As we began our study I asked them a question: “If someone else were to describe you, what would they say?” They smiled at each other. This should be interesting. I nodded at the first woman in the circle. She was usually eager to talk, so she’d be a good one to start.
“Oh, my friends would call me mouthy,” she said. The other girls laughed. Obviously, the description fit.
Around the room we went. “Fun-loving; loud.” The room erupted. They seemed to enjoy this.
“Quiet; pretty.” And she was. Long, dark hair. Pretty smile.
Instantly, a chill settled into the room. The banter ceased as they looked at one another.
“Boisterous.” That’s for sure. She was always talking and interrupting the study.
“Funny; individualistic; sweet; nice.”
They seemed happy, as each one shared. Then came the second question: “How do you see yourself? What one word would you use to describe you?”
Instantly, a chill settled into the room. The banter ceased as they looked at one another. “It’s OK,” I said. “Just be honest. How do you see yourself?”
I glanced at the first girl: the happy one, so eager to start before, the one who said her friends would call her “mouthy.” She looked up, and I could see the pain in her eyes. “Depressed,” she said, as she looked at the floor.
“Thank you so much for being honest.” I paused. “Does anyone else want to share?”
They each took turns. “Confused; lonely; afraid.” Gone were the smiles and jokes. Now, we were encountering who they felt they were inside. The next girl said, “Afraid,” then the tears began.
Unable to speak, I simply nodded at the next woman. Her voice caught. “Angry,” she said as she twisted her hands in her lap.
One girl remained. I cleared my throat. “What about you, my sister?”
I had to strain to catch what she said. “Broken,” she whispered as the tears streamed down her face.
I swallowed hard. How skillfully Satan weaves his web over our lives. How he obscures God’s love and His beautiful plan for us!
I asked my final question: “Tell me, how does Jesus look at you?”
I love our God because He never looks at us through the eyes of others, nor does He look at us through the lies Satan feeds us. After all, what Jesus thinks is the only thing that really matters.
He calls us His sons and daughters (1 John 3:1).
He has a beautiful plan for our lives (Jer. 29:11).
What Satan intended for evil, He can turn for good (Gen. 50:20).
He can fill us with peace (John 14:27).
He’s waiting to give us an abundant life (John 10:10).
You know what? My sisters in jail aren’t the only ones who’ve worn the mask. I’ve worn it. As a Christian, it can be easy to slip on.
How often do we define success in ministry by what other people tell us, or by what we feel inside? But none of that really matters. After all, I am who God says I am!